This feature is part of the National Alliance’s 2023 Back to School Month campaign.
Covenant Academy of Mobile is a new public charter school serving students in grades K-12 in Alabama. The school focuses on building character development, organizational skills, a literacy rich environment, S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) instruction, connections through elective courses, and growing entrepreneur skills.
We talked to Founders Nikkia and Spencer Ruggs, Head of School Brenda Hartzog, and Principal Kristi July to learn more about the new school. Brenda shared their vision for maintaining a positive learning environment where students take ownership of their learning and learn the tools to be productive and caring contributors in a changing world.
What led you to open a charter school?
We had a vision to start Covenant Academy of Mobile with a desire to create a new model of education. We wanted to create something new, something different, something fresh and organic. We wanted something that would “feed and fuel” a generation that is hungry and thirsty for an educational shift of creativity and change.
We recognize that we live in a transitional world and a world that is changing so fast. We understand the need for innovation in education. Our message to others is that we must embrace the evolution of the new human that thinks and processes information differently from any generation in human history. It is evident that to serve the generations and the generations to come, it is simply not enough to look into the future to lead them, but we must lead them from the future. We are excited to provide this educational opportunity for those who seek an educational shift of creativity and change.
What is your vision for students and teachers?
My vision is that the students and teachers will embrace the non-traditional educational experience, promote a respectful culture that says, “I belong,” and make this “dream” school a model for others to see and want to replicate.
You also express a goal of helping students become fluent in Spanish—please describe this goal in more detail.
We believe it is important for our youngest students to be exposed to Spanish regularly because they may not be coming to us with any experience in a foreign language. So, all 1st-5th graders will receive Spanish instruction regularly with our Spanish teacher. Our kindergarten students are our beta test group. They will have a native Spanish and English speaker in their classroom daily. The goal is to teach them both languages at a kindergarten level and expose them through reading and writing, as well as cultural connections with celebrations and videos. Our 1st-5th graders will be able to participate in some of those experiences as well. As we grow each year, we will continue to integrate those foreign languages into our core content areas as well.
What are your plans to incorporate community voice into your school?
We are utilizing a platform called “ParentSquare,” an electronic communication system that allows us to keep our parents informed as to what is happening on campus but also allows them to sign up to participate in events on campus. Every Friday, parents can sign up to come and participate in what’s happening in the classroom. The activities may be reading books to students, supporting students in math class, or working on projects with students. Whatever is happening in the classroom, we want our community members, as well as our parents, to be involved in that process.
Mrs. July will also host a monthly, “Breakfast with the Principal,” so community members and parents can come and learn various aspects of the school and provide feedback. “Lunch with the Principal” will provide opportunities for students to share things that are of concern to them and offer suggestions that will enhance their school experience.
Our PTO on campus will support our efforts and help with the creation of our “Parents’ Academy,” which is an opportunity for parents to become more involved in what’s happening on campus and learn how to support their students academically and socially.
Is there anything else you would like us to know about your charter school?
We have a focus on differentiated instruction within our classroom. Our students will be coming to us from various locations, experiences, and academic abilities. Research has shown that most traditional settings offer a “one-size-fits-all” curriculum experience for students. Our non-traditional setting will provide opportunities to meet our students where they are, knowing they will be varied in each classroom. Our goal is to meet them where they are and challenge them at that level so that we can ensure our upper academic students are challenged and successful as well as those students who may need additional academic support experience success as well. This is the only way we feel that we can keep students engaged in school, and they find joy in coming to school every day.
Brittnee Baker is the manager of communications and marketing at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.